- The Kenya Shipping Agents Association estimates the country has lost more than Sh5.9 billion since 2007, when cruise tourism began to fall.
- A modern $3.1 million cruise terminal with capacity for 2,000 passengers is now complete.
- For a nearly $30 billion industry, cruise tourism is one of the most competitive in the maritime sector.
In its heyday, cruise ships were a prominent feature in Mombasa Port. With weekly cruises calling at the port, Zanzibar and the Seychelles, the city of Mombasa was teeming with foreign tourists.
At the height of Somali piracy from 2005, Kenya’s cruise tourism star faded. By then, more than 40 such ships would call at Mombasa port. The number has been reduced to zero in the recent past.
The Kenya Shipping Agents Association estimates the country has lost more than Sh5.9 billion since 2007, when cruise tourism began to fall.
However, there is a glimmer of hope that the industry could be revived. A modern $3.1 million cruise terminal with capacity for 2,000 passengers is now complete. But this great facility lies idle six months after it was launched.
How can this terminal be optimally used? This is a nagging question for many cruise tourism stakeholders.
Notably, the PMAESA (Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa) and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) convened a meeting this week to brainstorm an innovative cruise business strategy.
For a nearly $30 billion industry, cruise tourism is one of the most competitive in the maritime sector. If Kenya is to break into this market, it must offer an irresistible cruise package.
As the cruise industry recovers from a major disruption caused by the pandemic, Kenya can seize this moment to lure cruise lines with a new destination. However, Kenya cannot do this alone.
It assumes that their neighbors in the East and South Africa region are already established in the business. Zanzibar and South Africa are good examples.
Kenya should market itself through cruise lines as a home port for cruise ships – where voyages begin and end.
Obviously, a seamless service connection with the nearby Moi International Airport is required for easy access to the cruise terminal.
“As the fastest growing maritime sector, cruise tourism is a product for the port and an industry for the country. If good-natured [sic]it can have a good impact on the economy,” said Col. Andre Ciseau, Secretary General of PMAESA.
A solid cruise product is also required, which can be enhanced through travel arrangements with other regional partners under the PMAESA umbrella, adds Col Ciseau.
This should also include an inventory of tourist attractions, particularly those within 200 kilometers of the port.
Present at the meeting was Jacques Massoni, the director of the Marseille Cruise Port Terminal. Ranked as the fourth busiest cruise terminal in the Mediterranean and 15th in the world, Massoni’s presentation provided a reality check for Kenya’s aspirations to transform Mombasa into an African cruise hub.
A few conditions suffice.
There is a difference between ferry and cruise passengers. The latter are looking for an experience, so a dedicated team working exclusively in the cruise terminal is required. Think cruising all day.
The challenge isn’t winning a first call, but building and maintaining relationships with leading cruise lines, Massoni said.
The stakeholders agreed to form the Mombasa Port Cruise Terminal Club, which consists of the Kenya Port Authority, PMAESA, the Mombasa County Government, shipping and travel agencies, among others.
It borrows from the Marseille Provence Cruise Club, which helps expand the business strategy for the Marseille Port Cruise Terminal.
To avoid scenarios that could result in poor ratings for the Kenyan cruise industry, Miriam Mwakundia, Head of Marketing at KPA, called for the need for value chain analysis.
Capacity building is particularly needed for food suppliers and curio vendors to be stationed at the cruise terminal.
This is to ensure the quality of cruise terminal services. It also affects hoteliers and travel agencies. In terms of price, we have to classify ourselves as cruise travelers.
Brian Gicheru Kinyua comments on the maritime sector